Let me just start with this-- I've been there. As a very active high school student, I never really paid attention to what I was eating. Honestly, I kinda ate whatever I wanted...whenever I wanted. I never gained any weight or felt bad about myself because of these habits either. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't eating super unhealthy or anything, but if I wanted a large chocolate milkshake at the end of the night, I slurped it up with zero guilt.
Going into my freshman year of college, I kept this mentality, but I was working out substantially less. I wasn't playing a sport anymore, as I did in high school, and I wasn't going to the gym nearly as often either. Instead, I had hours of schoolwork on top of a demanding waitressing job on campus that took up most of my time. Due to this, the little free time I had became the time I spent with friends or just relaxing. By the end of my freshman year, I realized I had gained almost 20 pounds. I was completely caught off guard and fell into a state of utter guilt. How did I not see this happening right in front of me? I was defeated and nervous about what the future had in store if I kept up my habits of eating whatever I wanted and drinking almost every weekend.
When summer came around, I was determined to make a change and feel better about myself again. Because of this, I found myself caught up in yo-yo dieting, overdoing it on cardio, and majorly restricting myself with what I consumed. I was probably eating under 800 calories everyday and burning significantly more than that on the treadmill. The fear of holding on to this weight any longer pushed me into a dark place, and I lost 15 pounds by the time sophomore year started in August. I was proud of myself externally, but I knew I was doing it all wrong. Before I knew it, I was able to go an entire day with just a cup of coffee and a banana with peanut butter. I found myself fearing food and writing down everything I ate with the number of calories beside it out of my obsession to lose more and more. Every pound lost and compliment received drove me to eat less. Through it all, I denied ever having a bad relationship with food to anyone.
After a while of practicing this routine, I felt myself becoming weaker and more tired. I had trouble staying up past 10 P.M. and getting my work done. I could barely get up to go to class and often felt lightheaded. On top of it, I distanced myself from those around me-- I wasn't nearly as social as I was freshman year, and I felt super moody on top of that. I really just didn't want to do anything besides sleep and go to the gym.
This might sound cheesy, but I truly did have that "one-day" moment. It was a random Monday morning and I was on my way to my 9 A.M. class. I stopped into Starbucks and saw tables of friends and couples sitting down, drinking coffee, and eating bagels or breakfast sandwiches together before going to class. Most were smiling and laughing or talking about how fun their weekends were. As I stood in line, I stopped and thought to myself how it had really been months since I had done anything remotely similar to that. Thinking about eating a full bagel scared me...as bad as that sounds. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to feel free to eat what I want and go out on weekends with my friends. I didn't want chains around me anymore.
That's when I discovered the beauty of nutrition. I began following different fitness Instagram accounts and educating myself about nutrition and its parts. Before I knew it, I began eating a regular breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Although I started small, as time went on, the size of my meals began to grow and I discovered what macro tracking is. I learned how to calculate my macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates) based on my weight, height, and activity level. Once I had my numbers set in stone, I aimed to reach them every day. At first, it was super hard...I barely made it halfway to any of my counts, and honestly, I still find myself struggling sometimes as a busy college student to reach all my goals fully.
With my new and improved lifestyle, I've developed a healthy and sustainable relationship with the gym and food. Not only that but having something as concrete as macro tracking has allowed me to put my mind and energy into something other than how much I weigh. To be honest, it's kind of fun. Nutrition is interesting. Fueling your body properly and feeling good about it is so rewarding for me and many others. If you find yourself falling down the same path as I was-- yo-yo dieting, restriction, cardio only, and avoidance of social events-- this could be right for you, too.
I encourage you to look into other options and do! your! research! You will find that being educated about what you're putting in your body will lead to a much happier lifestyle and relationship with food.
For more information about macro tracking (what it is, how to do it, the benefits...), check out this link!
Put your best foot forward and strive to improve your overall health and well-being...one step at a time.